Pilot Project Hopes to Improve Deadly Eveleth Intersection

By KBJR News 1

March 4, 2013 Updated Mar 5, 2013 at 12:14 AM CDT

Eveleth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - The intersection of Highway 53 and Hat Trick Avenue in Eveleth has proven to be deadly.

City officials say something needs to be done soon to prevent another tragedy. MnDOT engineers are hoping a pilot project may be the answer.

"You do get a lot of cars backed up on either side," said Eveleth City Councilor Beth Peterson of the problems with the intersection.

According to MnDOT, the fatal accident that took the life of a 16-year-old this fall was the third fatality at the intersection in ten years. Numbers that while within the state average for rural four–lane roads, seem to still be far too high.

"It was such a young life, just starting and it ended so quickly," said Peterson of Hannah Wilson, the Eveleth-Gilbert student killed in the crash.

MnDOT District Engineer Duane Hill says that change lies in what's called an Intersection Conflict Warning Program. It's a pilot program that warns drivers approaching an intersection that there's someone wanting to cross. It also tells the person wanting to cross when it's safe to do so.

"The preliminary information that we have about this type of system shows that we can reduce the serious injury and fatal crashes by as much as 80 percent," said Hill.

But city officials are skeptical, saying they don't think drivers will pay attention to the warning. Instead, they want a stoplight.

"Where as a stoplight – green, red, yellow – those decisions are taken out of your hand," said Peterson.

It's a solution that MnDOT says will do more harm than good.

"It [the stoplight] causes more conflicts with through traffic, which results in rear end collisions," said Hill.

Regardless of the difference in opinion, both sides say they hope the program is a start to making the intersection a little less difficult and a lot safer.

"It's making some progress into getting a little better safety," said Eveleth Mayor, Robert Vlaisavljevich.

MnDOT says the project is expected to cost around $80,000 to $100,000.

They say they they'll start to implement the program in Eveleth by fall 2013 or spring 2014.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.